This 199 mile ride has great views as the road curves atop cliffs along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Cabot Strait. This ride differs from the clockwise ride in a couple of key ways. First, the views and curves seem different in this direction. Second, this ride visits Dingwall, White Point, Keltic Lodge, Black Brook Beach, and the Skyline Trailhead and skips Meat Cove, Bay Saint Lawrence, and Cabot Cove Park. Highlights include the La Bloc Look-Off, Veteran’s Cove Look-Off, MacKenzie Mountain – Gulf of St. Lawrence Look-Off, McKenzie Mountain – Whales Look-Off, Dingwall, White Point, Neil’s Harbour, Black Brook Beach, Lakie’s Head Look-Off, and the Keltic Lodge.
The ride begins by taking Route 105 south to the Red Barn. Turn right on the Cabot Trail and ride inland across Cape Breton to Margaree. Turn right and follow the Trail north along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The next stretch to Chéticamp has some nice ocean views. Pass the Harbour Restaurant in Chéticamp and admire the view of the Chéticamp Lighthouse in the parking lot. Gas up at the Petro Canada since the next large town with gas is Ingonish 76 miles away.
Stop at the Chéticamp Visitors Center (restrooms, park information, gift shop) or the admission kiosk just beyond and pay for entry to Cape Breton Highlands National Park (8.50 CAD, 7.25 CAD age 65 and older – valid until 4pm the day after its purchase.)
Continue to the Buttereau Look-Off. Walk all the way to the back (south) end of this Look-Off for a killer view of the curving roadway and Petit ETANG beach below. This is the first great view in the park.
The next section of the Trail is my favorite. The Trail hugs the ocean and gives amazing views from elevation. The La Bloc Look-Off may be my favorite of all. Stop, get off your bike and look forward. This view of the road snaking along the gulf and over the distant highlands is used on brochures. It is definitely one to savor.
Stop at Veteran’s Monument Look-Off for one of the better views from the Trail. A plaque was placed here by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to recognize the contribution of Canadians who died overseas during the World Wars.
The road now snakes on top of a rugged ridgeline and passes Skyline Look-Off.
Continue and stop at the Skyline Trailhead. The Skyline Trail offers spectacular views and is a popular hike. There are restrooms in the parking area near the trailhead. Since this ride is shorter than the Counterclockwise ride, there is time for a hike for those so inclined.
The Trail travels inland for a bit and passes the French Lake Look-Off and then the Benjie’s Lake Trailhead. Benjie’s Lake is another good hike and is a great place to see moose.
Next is the Fishing Cove Look-Off. This spot has an awesome view of a small cove and grassy clearing 1000 feet below. Here, Scottish settlers fished and traded with the French.
The road starts to really twist as it climbs MacKenzie Mountain. Stop at the MacKenzie Mountain – Gulf of St. Lawrence Look-Off for a great view. The panels explain about the rich fishery in these waters.
Stop at the MacKenzie Mountain – Whales Look-Off for great views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Watch for spouts of mist from whales below. The interpretive signs tell the story of the whales and the fish that they eat.
After a few more great curves, the road straightens and passes the Rusty Anchor Restaurant. This is a good place for lunch. The road now curves inland, crosses a bridge over the MacKenzie River, and begins crossing Cape Breton. During the next 20 mile section, the road crosses the Highlands in the interior of the park. The scenery changes to mountains and old growth forest. Pass the MacIntosh Trailhead (restrooms) and consider stopping at Lone Shieling with its replica of a Scottish sheep crofter’s hut. Stop at the North Mountain Look-Off for a nice view of the Aspy Fault. Descend a steep ridge and enjoy some nice curves to Big Intervale (restrooms.)
Continue to Cape North. Morrison’s Restaurant is a good place for lunch (Mon-Sat 12-7, closed Sunday.) Next door is the North Highlands Community Museum (free, restrooms, donations accepted.) The museum showcases the history and heritage of Northern Cape Breton, and serves as a local gathering place for the community. There are many great little museums like this scattered around Nova Scotia.
Turn left and continue east on the Cabot Trail. Bear left on Dingwall Rd. Ride to the St. Paul Island South Point Lighthouse. St. Paul Island is a dangerous obstacle for mariners passing through Cabot Strait. So many ships have been wrecked on its rocks that St. Paul Island has earned the nickname “The Graveyard of the Gulf.” The changeable weather and prevalent fog in the strait have contributed to the wrecks of over 300 ships on the island’s rocky cliffs. There is a small museum (free, donations accepted) at the site that tells the story. Continue on Dingwall Rd to the Look-Off on the left on the outer beach for a great view.
Return on Dingwall Rd and turn left on the Cabot Trail. Bear left on White Point Rd to stay along the water and to ride some fun curves. Bear left to stay on White Point Rd and stop at the White Point Boat Launch and Beach. This is a very pretty view of fishing boats, rocky shore, sandy beach, and distant hills.
Return on White Point Rd and then turn left on New Haven Rd. In New Haven, the ride passes a fire station on the left with public restrooms. Next is Neil’s Harbour with great views and a lighthouse selling ice cream. The road curves inland and rejoins the coast at Black Brook Cove. Turn left on the road into Black Brook Cove Beach (restroom.) There is a nice view of a sandy beach with hills surrounding the cove. To the left of the beach is the Still Brook Waterfall.
Leave the beach and turn left on the Cabot Trail. The Black Brook Beach Look-Off overlooks our last stop with a rocky beach view and wildflowers. The MacKinnon Look-Off has a nice view of rocky MacKinnon Cove with a lone pine tree standing sentinel. Stop at the Lakie’s Head Look-Off for a fantastic view. Stop at the Irving in Ingonish for gas, if needed, for the final leg. Continue to the Coastal Restaurant & Pub. This is a good late lunch choice.
Continue south and turn left on Keltic in Road. Ride past Ingonish Beach to the Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa. Proceed past the lodge and bear right to the large parking lot and and traffic circle. There is a very nice hike from here to Middle Head for those so inclined. From the website: “The Middle Head Trail follows a long, narrow peninsula separating two ocean bays, ending on headland cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Smokey and Ingonish Island. There are opportunities to see seabirds, seals, whales and eagles, as well as fishing boats in the early summer.”
Return past the lodge and bear right on Keltic out Road. Ride past more great water views and the golf course and rejoin the Cabot Trail. Pass the Ingonish Visitor’s Center (restrooms, park information, and a gift shop.) Across the street from the visitor’s center is the trail to the Freshwater Lake Look-Off. This 0.2 mile steep trail offers a great panoramic view at the top.
Ride around Ingonish Harbour and notice the Atlantic Gondola on the right. The gondola is part of Cape Smokey Ski Area and offers sightseeing rides in the summer. The road starts climbing and twisting as it approaches Cape Smokey Provincial Park. On the left is the turn for the Cape Smokey Trailhead. This trail has great ocean views. Next is the Pathend Brook Lookout which is a great stop for expansive views of the Cabot Strait.
Ride south to the Wreck Cove General Store that sells Cabot Trail Biker t-shirts and gear.
The road next travels through the French River Wilderness Area. This is a pretty stretch with nice water views. The Trail travels inland a bit before rejoining the coast at St. Ann’s Bay. Ride some nice curves along the bay and past the Gaelic College and then turn right on Route 105. Turn left onto Route 205 and follow Bras D’Or Lake to Baddeck Harbour. The Harbour has great views of Kidston Lighthouse and beyond. Ride along the lakefront to Water Street. Notice the statue of Alexander Graham Bell and wife Mabel on a bench in the park that bears his name. Leave the park and ride Route 205 and Route 105 to the trip hotel.